The Spectator Bird

If you regularly read this blog, you know I love my Wallace Stegner.  Crossing to Safety counts as one of my top 10 favorite books — I love the narrative voice and the language as much as the story.  I say ‘love’ because I mean ‘love.’  Love is not too strong a word I swear.

Last week I scanned the shelves for my next book, and since I’d just finished the Rebecca Skloot book about Henrietta Lacks (fascinating, by the way) I was looking for a good old fashioned story, well-told.  I picked up Stegner’s All the Little Live Things, but then my husband told me I needed to read The Spectator Bird first, as it was a kind of prequel.  For the first 40-50 pages, I enjoyed Stegner being, well, Stegner:  perfect prose spoken by a character with lots of opinion and verve.  And then it fell flat, and I couldn’t decide why.

I think I’ve figured it out.  The narrator reminds me exactly — and I mean exactly — of the protagonist in Stegner’s Angle of Repose.  His name may not be Lyman Ward but man-oh-man does he think and talk exactly like the guy.  Disappointing to say the least.

I also think I’m a little bored with books about elderly men looking back on their lives with disdain.  Think Philip Roth.  Roth is a great novelist, great prose stylist, but stuck in the mud of angry-old-man-voice.  Can anyone say ‘boring’??

So as much as I love Stegner — and I still do — I think I need to go back to reading (a) more female authors, and (b) stories with strong feminine voices.  Any suggestions?